Caesara- (pages 15-16)
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You do love her, my boy, though you do not know it. Cinis et umbra sumus.



There are men whom observant minds as well as women read at first sight, people of small wit, but of strong will and consistent characters. Such a character was Castelmare. Had a woman heard him pull the bell she would have instantly known the manner in which to receive him; a good actor hearing his firm step, heavy and rigidly regular, echoing along the galleries and corridors of the Bianchi palace, by reconstructive imagination, without a glimpse of him, he could have guessed the character of the man in question: a nature common, consistent and strong.

Having once made up his mind to marry Caesara, wit or against her will, all means whatever were acceptable, though he had few at his disposal, since he had small ability for the purpose. Yet, since he was endowed with some wisdom, he was trying to discover if the sly maiden had by chance another love.

Hyeronimo, though ignorant of the nature of his feeling for Caesara, chose to obey her as a child his elder sister; frankly speaking, she used the power she had over him in a way quite unpardonable. In her presence, he felt a kind of tenderness in his heart, a kind of strange thrill, the memory of which haunted him for days on end. You could not call it love for though he delighted in her presence, he would rather think of her when he was away. In such rememorations, while playing with her image, her actual presence was downright distasteful. He felt something like a thorn in the flesh she being present – he no longer possessed that dreamlike freedom which was the essence of his life and the only happiness of a character content without love or hate. «If she would only leave me alone,» he thought, «I could bear it. I would hold her small hand and we should gaze at the moon, the virgin moon. I would then contemplate her as a marble statue or like an image painted against a luminous background in a book of icons. Her hair looks like golden froth, so fine is it. Moreover, her face glows in a strange way. She will not leave me alone, not for the world. She will throw her arms around my neck, kiss me, saying that I love her. Nay, confound it all! Apart from that, she is quite beautiful, strictly speaking. Her chin like a round golden apple, her mouth sometimes like a cherry and her eyes oh those eyes! If she would only keep them away from mine, she touches my lashes and I shiver down to the soles or my feet. Then I do no longer see how beautiful she is. A dark fog covers my eyes and I could then kill her. This is no life but downright torture. Why, to be honest, poor child, she has no idea that she is torturing me.»

He was walking in the garden of the Bianchi palace. Like the wings of a wild eagle, the lack, dry hair framed that lovely weary face as if fashioned of Paros marble. The half-closed lids revealed the large size of his eyes, of a dark demonic blue, yet disdainful; the half-closed lips revealed a forcible pain; the neck alone curbed proudly, as if undaunted by the hardship of life. The night was clear, the air looked snowy in the moonlight peeping through the dark greenery of the trees. He sat on a bench, hands joined together, limp upon his knees, head hanging down and hair disheveled over his brow; vaguely thinking that he wasn’t aware of the moon alone sailing among the clouds filed the night with dreams. A slight swish was heard which woke him. It was she. There was a change in her. Her face, no longer drawn, was visibly rounded, her breasts were fuller, the color in her cheeks had gone, and displaced by pallor that lent her an air of incredible gentleness. Her eyes had no longer that wild, nocturnal brilliance, the depth of which flashed with somber love and hungry desire; nay, clear and unspeakably profound you might have gazed days on end into them. A calm and melancholy peace was in their depth. It that pale, full yet sad face, the purple mouth was painfully smiling, a rose of Jericho the beauty of which never withers. She came slowly along the path bathed in the moon’s clear light, along white alleys decorated with the shadows of meshed leaves. She saw him but did not quicken her pace. Had she guessed what his character was like? Maybe. He sat still, gazing upon her coming slowly, as if moonstruck, like a sleepwalker.

His elbow on the back of the seat, he placed his chin on his hand, gently moving his fingers, gazing in wonder, with shining eyes, at her luminous face as she was coming. She sat down by him, the moonlight full on her. She did not touch his hand, nothing. The moon silvered her becomingly and she was sly enough to let herself be fully bathed in this gentle and voluptuous light. He went on gazing. He was first to reach and gently clutch her slender, cold little hand. «Why, yes!» he thought, while a sensation never felt before shot through his heart, «I do like her now, indeed.» He then gently crept up to her lithe, light body and bending down, he gently whispered into her ear, though in passionate accents:

«Look at the moon, the midnight moon, as lovely as a fourteen day-old baby and so cold. Can’t you feel that all life’s sorrow, that every desire, every aspiration ceases in the contemplation of this fine picture, yourself a part of it? In my mind, you are now an angel, more beautiful than I ever saw you, tender. Don’t you know that I love you?»

She thrilled, but kept silent.

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